For the health of the mouth and against tooth decay, from today we have one more ally, licorice! In fact, in addition to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor and antimicrobial properties that we already know, we now also know that this root, thanks to some compounds it contains, is able to counteract the action of cariogenic bacteria. This emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in the journal Antibiotics thanks to the work of a Canadian team (Vaillancourt et al, Antibiotics, 2021).
How tooth decay is formed
One of the most important cariogenic bacteria is Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium metabolizes the carbohydrates deriving from food and produces organic acids, which will destroy the dental enamel. Not only that, Streptococcus mutans also produces a dense biofilm that adheres to the surface of the teeth, retaining acids and increasing resistance to antimicrobial agents. Caries can be prevented by regular tooth hygiene, using brushing and flossing. However, there are also natural remedies that can help, if associated with proper oral hygiene, to counteract the action of tooth decay. Licorice is one of these remedies.
Licorice counteracts tooth decay and periodontitis
What we call licorice is a root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, used to treat various ailments, such as stomach problems and nausea. Although tradition had already attributed to licorice a useful action to counteract tooth decay, to date few studies have been devoted to the subject. Precisely to better understand this effect, Canadian scientists have designed a study carried out in the laboratory in which they put the active ingredients of licorice, lycoricidine and glabridin, in contact with the bacterium responsible for caries. What emerged is that licorice actually shows an antibacterial action against the bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Not only that, licorice is able to inhibit the ability of the bacterium to produce the biofilm that increases its resistance. In addition, licorice reduced the release of dextran, which is a substance produced by the bacterium Streptococcus mutans from sugar and crucial for the formation of the biofilm for the best adhesion of the bacterium to the teeth.
Finally, one of the compounds of licorice, lycoricidine, also has anti-inflammatory properties and is therefore useful in preventing periodontal diseases.